Monday, 28 May 2012

26th & 27th May – New Hyena Den Discovered!

Photo of the Day
One of four cubs at the new hyena den on Java

26th May Morning Drive

(Chad, Shadrack, Herold and Grant)

1 x lion (Timbavati Male) – Kings, Little Ridge

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Peru Cutline

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Tamboti Pan

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Bluewaxbill

26th May Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Godfrey, Shadrack, Herold and Grant)

2 x leopards (Nthombi female and cub on duiker kill) – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi

1 x leopard (very skittish young male) – Java, Java Dam

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Madash Dam

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Rudi’s Rd

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Madala Crossing

1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam

1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Mpisi Khaya Rd

2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Wedge River Rd

27th May Morning Drive

(Chad, Shadrack, Herold and Grant)

2 x leopards (Nthombi female and cub on duiker kill) – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi

5 x rhinos

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Dizzy Drive

1 x breeding herd of buffalos – Peru, Peru Cutline

6 x hyenas (Rockfig Clan with 4 cubs) – Java, Windsock Rd

6 x hyenas (Xinatsi Clan) – Argyle, Peru Entrance

27th May Afternoon Drive


6 x lions (Machaton Pride and Timbavati male on giraffe kill) – Umlani, One Way

1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Klipgat Crossing

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Madala Crossing

Daily Synopsis

I guess I’m being a bit lazy with a double post here, but it as I came off drive during the weekend, I thought it would be easier this way!

If our animals were being lazy on Friday, then I guess “absent” and “wholly uncooperative” would be the best way to describe them over the course of the weekend!  It was rather frustrating driving around looking for them and finding nothing, and then on finding animals, having them disappear!

A cold Jacky watching our group photograph the sunrise
Saturday morning saw us looking for more lively leopards in the north, especially Makepisi, but despite looking all over Motswari Wedge and down to Mbali Dam area, we came up empty handed!  At Argyle Dam, we had some lovely birds and hippos in the early morning mist, and along the Nhlaralumi, one herd of kudus, but until we got to Elephant Dam in the south, we didn’t even see a single impala!!!  Even Grant, joining for coffee, commented that they too were the first impalas he had seen!

Birds and hippos at Argyle Dam, and one solitary herd of kudus on a quiet morning
Our mission south was disappointing because we had come to see the last remaining Timbavati male lion just south of Double Highway – the first time I had seen him in goodness knows how long!  But, just like yesterday’s lions, there was more life in my socks than there was in the lion; still it was good to see them by back in town, and hopefully he will hang around with the Machaton pride and keep the new intruding males at bay for a bit!

Zebra herd and the return of the last Timavati male - hope he sticks around
Heading back to camp, the long trip home was made longer because eventually the animals worke up!  More impalas, a couple herds of giraffes, a herd of nyala, a herd of wildebeest and some obliging birds all showed themselves as we headed back north.

The animals were definitely more obliging as it warmed up - a couple herds of giraffe and a lilac-breasted roller
The afternoon was one that saw us not wanting to go far, and I thus headed east, having a feeling of finding rhinos, and strangely, as I was driving around, I was day dreaming of finding a new, relaxed leopard.  Smoke on the horizon indicated a fire, but I didn’t expect it to be right on our boundary, so when I arrived on the Kruger Boundary to find the flames lapping up the mopane trees, it was quite a surprise!  It was a controlled burn, and part of an 80km long fire break being burnt, but it was still interesting to watch.

A fire burning through green mopane trees on the Kruger Nationl Park Boundary
Sadly, no rhinos had been chased into our area with the flames, and all we saw were 2 hippos, a few herds of impalas, steenbuck and a herd of zebras.

Zebra herd in the east
It was while watching the zebras that I got a radio call asking if anyone was on Karans, and I knew immediately that Lovemore had something.  I was thus quite shocked that it was a leopard less than 1km from where I was, so I rushed over, and as he pointed it out, Jacky saw it and we went into the bush, but it disappeared!  We searched the area, but sadly, it was not to be.  While my leopard feeling had been half right, it was clearly not a relaxed individual, and if it was, it would no doubt have been one of my biggest surprises in the east to find one there! 

Annoyingly, Lovemore then passed a rhino a bit further along the road, but he too was gone by the time Grant and I arrived in the area.  I think we should just follow Lovemore around in future!

The afternoon remained frustratingly quiet, only seeing a herd of elephants as the sun set, but pleasingly it was with our little crippled calf, and he was doing well.  There was no sign of leopard around Mbali Dam, but we did have a wonderful drink along the course of the river.

Elephant herd with our crippled calf doing really well!
After dark, things did not improve for us, and only Godfrey was close enough to respond to a sighting of Nthombi and her cub with a duiker kill on Vielmetter; I just got excited as at least it was something to look forward to in the morning. 

Only bypassing a couple of elephant bulls and hippos out the water at Argyle Dam, we closed off at camp after a less than successful drive – Herold was also frustrated, as he too found a leopard at Java Dam, but it was extremely nervous, even in the dark, and he had no idea which leopard it could be?

One good bit of news was that Ephraim, our head of maintenance, had found a drag mark of a kill on Java airstrip, and followed it to a hyena den site on a road that had just been reopened after the floods – in the evening Herold managed a glimpse of some of the young hyenas, but commented that they were already quite big.

Sunday morning came, and it was off to go see Nthombi, and make a turn at the hyena den.  It was the usual quiet start in the coolness of the morning, with just impalas and a lone wildebeest making an appearance.  Grant and Shadrack were on a rhino mission in the east, and after a couple hours of tracking, Shadrack did manage to find 5 rhinos resting in an open patch in a dense woodland that he walked his guests in to see on foot.

I had luck, and as I arrived at the hyena den, I spotted four cubs on the termite mound – two different ages; one pair was about 7 months old, and the other just over 3 months.  We kept our distance, as the this was the first time the youngsters had seen a vehicle in the day; but the older ones are surely the cubs we were seeing at the end of last year, and soon came wandering up to the vehicle to check us out!

Our first visit to the new den - the youngest cubs were a bit nervous, but the older ones came right up to investigate us!
We pulled closer and sat quietly, and could now see mum sleeping there too; Grant joined me, and we had a wonderful sighting as the bigger cubs went from vehicle to vehicle checking us out; eventually the one young cub popped its head out the hole.

Mother and the older cubs were happy to put on  show, but the youngest ones were a bit hesitant

After some time, he became brave enough and emerged fully and went to join the others creating the best sighting of the weekend!

Eventually, one of the young cubs came out to join the fun with the older cubs!
We left them, hoping to find Nthombi, but as she was not where the kill had been last night, it was very disappointing.  Two stations had checked the area with no luck, so I chose to search the surrounding areas instead; Herold, being Herold, didn’t take no for an answer and went to the same site and soon found her and the cub!  Sadly, I had already left the area to get back to camp early and thus couldn’t go see them.

Going back in the late morning, the animals once again awoke – impalas and steenbuck, and then the Xinatsi clan of hyenas milling about near some vultures – Herold had seen some leopard tracks in the area, but despite following the 6 hyenas, we found nothing.

Xinatsi clan of hyenas checking out a wake of vultures perched in a tree
At the same spot, there was also a herd of zebras and a large group of giraffes, but time was ticking and we had to leave them.  Passing through Piva Plains, we could see a large herd of impalas, two herds of zebras and waterbucks, and yet another massive herd of impalas on our airstrip; it clearly seems that the animals aren’t liking the cold mornings, so we shall be starting our drives later too from tomorrow morning!

Zebras, giraffe and impalas
Shadrack was alone in the afternoon, but seemingly had a good drive, albeit a long one!  He went as far south as Umlani to go see the Machaton Pride and the Timbavati male lion on a giraffe kill - hopefully his presence will keep the other males away for now.  On the way south, his guests also enjoyed a couple of herds of elephants and a sighting of the gorgeous Nthombi female leopard.

I shall be back on drive for a couple of days on Tuesday, but be sure to check out tomorrow’s post for some amazing video footage of the Sohebele male lions killing a buffalo that was sent through by one of our guests!

Until then, enjoy the week!


  1. Hey Chad. Awesome photos like usual :) LOVED your pictures of the Roller, The colours are STUNNING!!! Looking forward to more Blogs. Catt :)

  2. Your (lengthy) lazy double post forgiven in lieu of stunning, stunning pics. Thank you for bringing it to us!

  3. Great photos... loved the hyena cubs.